Immigrants in Michigan, what do you know about them?

National reports demonstrate the contributions immigrants make to Michigan’s economy and resources that exist to reduce immigrant brain waste in the Great Lakes State.

Michigan established the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) in 2015 to attract global talent and provide resources for skilled, college-educated immigrants. MONA supports immigration and immigrant integration initiatives for the state. Nonetheless, how much do the residents of Michigan really know about immigrants and their contribution to Michigan’s economy?

This article is to serve as a resource for residents interested in understanding who Michigan’s immigrants are, their economic impact and what occupations they largely represent, while hopefully serving to correct any preconceived inaccuracies. The data shared in this article is sourced directly from The American Immigration Council (AIC), 501 (c)(3) nonprofit structured to promote laws and policies and attitudes that honor our nation of immigrants, compiles national reports that reflect status of immigrants state by state. 

Did you know:

  • In 2015, 652, 090 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 6.6% of the state’s population
  • Top countries of origin of immigrants in Michigan were:
    • Mexico (11.5% of immigrants)
    • India (10.1% of immigrants)
    • Iraq (8.1%)
    • China (5.9%)
    • Canada (5.4%)
    • In 2016, 7.7% of Michigan’s population were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.


  • As of 2015, 52.5% (or approximately 343,000 immigrants) had naturalized.
  • Two-fifths of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015.


  • Immigrants comprised 7.7% (or 377,000 individuals) of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrants in Michigan’s Industry:
    • Manufacturing - 94,152
    • Health Care and Social Assistance – 59,561
    • Educational Services – 40,166
    • Accommodation and Food Services – 37,409
    • Retail Trade – 35, 211
    • Immigrants account for 10.5% of Professional, Scientific, and Technical Service workers in Michigan.
    • In 2015, immigrants were most numerous in the Occupation Category of Production (41,006 immigrants).
    • In 2015, immigrants account for 33,231 workers in the Occupation Category of Office and Administrative Support.

Economic Impacts:

  • In 2014, immigrant-led households in Michigan paid $3.8 billion in federal taxes and $1.5 billion in state and local taxes.
  • Immigrant entrepreneurs in Michigan generate over $500,000 in annual business revenue
  • 8.7 percent of all self-employed Michigan residents were immigrant business owners responsible for generating 683.8 million in business income.

Michigan, along with several other states, has fallen victim to immigrant brain waste, a phenomenon where college-educated immigrants’ skills and education are underutilized or not used at all in the workplace. According to “Untapped Talent: The Costs of Brain Waste Among Highly Skilled Immigrants in the United States”, a national report focused on seven key states attracting immigrants, Florida has the highest rate of immigrant brain waste (32 percent). Michigan and Ohio, two key industrial states, had the lowest (20-21 percent) level of brain waste with California, New York, Texas and Washington being in the middle. This low level of brain waste in Michigan may be in part to MONA’s mission to attract global talent and pair skilled immigrants with employment opportunities.

Clearly the findings reported by the American Immigration Council demonstrate that immigrants contribute to Michigan’s industries, economy and communities. More information on the 2015 report can be found by visiting Michigan State University Extension. Some other positive news for the Great Lakes State immigrant population can be found by visiting the American Immigration Council.


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